UNICEF believes no child should die of a preventable disease. That’s why we provide vaccines for 45% of the world’s young children.
Together with our partners, we support vaccination programmes in over 95 countries. It’s a huge job that’s only possible through the sheer determination of thousands of volunteers and health professionals.
These photos show the incredible lengths they’ll go to keep children safe from disease.
UNICEF health workers climb mountains
Four years of conflict have ravaged Yemen’s health care system. These health workers taking part in a UNICEF vaccination campaign are determined to save children’s lives - even through mountainous terrain, oppressive heat and heavy loads.
War is the perfect environment for disease to spread. With many hospitals and clinics in Yemen bombed or abandoned, it’s estimated one child dies every ten minutes from a preventable disease.
With no end in sight to the conflict, UNICEF and our partners are responding at a massive scale. Last year, we conducted campaigns to combat cholera outbreaks in high risk areas, including in places where other health services have been cut off by the fighting.
Each vaccinator has incredible resolve in crossing battle lines, mountains and valleys to vaccinate children. More children die from preventable diseases in Yemen than in the violence, so we simply can’t afford to stop.
UNICEF’s vaccines had to cross rough terrain for a measles, rubella and polio vaccination campaign in some of the most difficult-to-reach parts of PNG after the 2018 earthquake.
Diseases can also spread with deadly speed in the aftermath of a natural disaster, when children struggle to find safe drinking water, toilets and soap.
After a massive earthquake in Papua New Guinea in 2018, UNICEF supported a nationwide vaccination campaign to protect children from measles, rubella, and polio. That meant trekking through mountainous, jungle terrain to reach the children hardest hit at the epicentre of the quake.
Almost 1.3 million children under five were vaccinated against polio, while 1.2 million children were immunised against measles and rubella.
Najeeba has been working for years as a health worker in north-east Afghanistan. Community leaders like her make all the difference when myth and misinformation stop children being vaccinated.
Najeeba works hard every day towards a vision: a world where all children, everywhere are protected against preventable diseases.
Since 2000, Najeeba and thousands of other UNICEF-sponsored health workers have helped vaccinate 2.5 billion children.
UNICEF health workers cross rivers
A vaccine carrier is carefully transported across a river in India. It’s a delicate process - the vaccines need to be kept cold, even in tropical parts of the world.
UNICEF procured 2.4 billion vaccines in 2017. Their journeys start in our supply warehouses and end in every corner of the world.
No matter where they are, children who are vaccinated have a better chance to survive, thrive and reach their potential. That’s why UNICEF helps vaccines get to those hardest to reach - including the children on the other side of this river.
The persistence of health workers across the world has paid off - with immunisation saving more than two million lives each year each year from deadly childhood diseases like measles, diarrhoea and pneumonia.
P. Oyunchimeg travels by reindeer to a remote area of Tsagaannur, Mongolia. Amid approaching winter, she and other measles and rubella vaccinators are undergoing a lengthy journey – requiring travel by automobile, hand-drawn ferry, reindeer and foot – to vaccinate children in remote areas.
Getting vaccines to remote communities isn’t enough. To stay effective, vaccines need to be kept cold in a special carrier. If at any stage the vaccine’s temperature drops below two degrees or rises above eight, it can become unusable.
It’s not an easy job but we can’t give up. Despite progress, nearly 20 million children don’t receive even the most basic vaccines, leaving them vulnerable to dangerous diseases.
You can help vaccinate children in even the most remote areas.
UNICEF health workers drive down long, lonely roads
A box filled with polio vaccines sits on a jeep in regional Pakistan. Even in the stifling heat, the temperature-controlled carrier will keep the vaccines cold.
Even when there’s not an emergency, networks of UNICEF-sponsored health workers help vaccinate children who aren’t being reached. Where poverty, disadvantage and distance break down access to health services, these volunteers and staff bridge the gap. Equipping locals to vaccinate children is a sustainable, long-term strategy that benefits and empowers communities.
UNICEF health workers travel off roads...
Nepal has some of the most difficult terrains to traverse for vaccine delivery. Near the epicentre of the 2015 earthquakes, health workers and porters climbed mountains and crossed rivers by car and on foot.
A UNICEF car drives through a river to reach a remote community in Kavieng in New Ireland Province to administer polio vaccines. In the last year, 26 children have contracted polio and there is now a country wide vaccination campaign taking place that is being supported by UNICEF and partners.
UNICEF health workers travel by boat...
Health workers deliver vaccines to children on a speedboat, crossing Mekong River in Cambodia.
Distance isn’t the only barrier to getting children vaccinated. UNICEF works with community advocates to dispel myths and make sure families know the life-saving benefits of routine immunisations.
In this province of Pakistan, the only way to reach children is by crossing the Indus river. So that’s exactly what this polio team does.
UNICEF health workers travel by bicycle...
Health Surveillance Assistant, Noah Chipeta, rides his bicycle from the Chanthunthu community clinic to the nearest health centre, which is 17 kilometres away, in order to restock medical supplies at the clinic in rural Kasungu District, Malawi.
More children are protected from disease than ever before but there is still much work to be done. In Kayes region of Mali, an area which is dominated by informal gold mining, only 41% of children receive all the vaccines they require to stay healthy.
Mobile vaccinators like Adama Traore are a critical part of the solution.
Adama Traoré, 40, has been a vaccinator at Sadiola community health centre for more than 10 years. As a mobile vaccinator, he goes to vaccinate children in gold mine sites such as Massakama, a site which is 50 km from the nearest health centre.
"Here we are in a gold mine area, and many families work and live here, with their children completely isolated and deprived of any care," Adama says.
UNICEF health workers travel by air...
Hours after Cyclone Idai wreaked havoc on Mozambique, UNICEF staff were on the ground unloading supplies. This worker holds a box of cholera vaccines which arrived in a cargo plane.
Even before conflict broke out in South Sudan, the young country was one of the most difficult places in the world to deliver vaccines. Roads are unreliable and travel is dangerous.
When all else fails, UNICEF helps run Rapid Response Missions. We use whatever means necessary to reach the most desperate communities in the least accessible parts of South Sudan. In New Fangkak, South Sudan, UNICEF and our partner agencies could only reach this community by helicopter.
Joseph Okot, UNICEF Rapid Response Team Leader checks over newly delivered supplies, including tetanus vaccines and polio drops, therapeutic food, child protection materials, education kits and water, hygiene and sanitation items.
UNICEF health workers think outside the box
In remote villages in Vanuatu, families have no access to health centres or electricity and are only accessible by foot or small local "banana" boats. It means one in five children miss out on vaccinations because their communities are so hard to reach.
Baby Joy missed her first vaccines after birth because no nurses were available in her village that week and the nearest health centre was too far for her mother to walk.
But now thanks to a new program, which uses a drone to deliver vaccines to remote communities, children like Joy won't miss out on life-saving immunisations.
UNICEF health workers work on the go
Four-year-old Aush is vaccinated against polio on a moving train in Delhi, India.
Nearly a third of the 27 million babies born in India every year are not fully vaccinated during their critical first year of life. This leaves them vulnerable to disease and leaves health workers trying to catch up.
Being able to provide vaccines to even the most remote places is important because no child should lose their life to a preventable disease. UNICEF works for the survival, protection and development of every child, with a focus on the children who are the most disadvantaged and excluded.
BY RASHINI SURIYAARACHCHI